When you invent something as innovative as a portable drumset made out of cardboard and fiberglass you have to figure the history is every bit as captivating as the invention itself. In the story of Obilab, you would be correct. This particular tale involves three Parisians on different ends of the planet, a secret notebook, childhood rebellion, some serious work-philosophy and a general desire to turn the musical world upside-down.
Let’s begin in Shanghai, China in 2014 because that’s where we’ll find Patrick turning through pages and pages of a secret notebook containing hundreds of his design ideas. Patrick has been designing things--watches, tables, chairs, even shower gel for goodness sake--for other people for the past 10 years, a career whose length is only rivaled by his other main passion--being a musician.
A mission in China brought Patrick to a very fortunate realization, “There I realized that 10 years of product designing for others took me so far away from innovation. I’m a designer for the innovation part. So, I started to think about this big, big life project of mine--stop working for other companies and make my own.”
And so was born… drumroll please... Obilab.
Patrick had been playing piano since he could speak, so naturally his design ideas drifted towards music, but more specifically expanding the world of musical instruments. “There is a big, big lack of musical instruments… there are so few innovations for people, especially who are just beginning to play. So many people really want to play music but are afraid to start because ‘it’s not for me, it’s too complicated, I’m not a musician, I would love to play but…’”
Like most stereotypical inventors, he decided to take on his most challenging and complex design idea first. Luckily, he was introduced to Caroline, then living in New York, and didn’t have to do it alone.
“The reality is that until I met Caroline, I was just a crazy guy who had crazy ideas” admits Patrick.
“Now we’re two crazy guys” boasts Caroline.
“Yea, but when we’re two crazies, we can call it a company” Patrick correctly observes.
Make that three crazies. Victor joined Obilab as the production manager and official energy balancer. And so the artist, the businesswoman, and the somewhere-in-the-middle-man took two trips to two different Maker Fairs in Paris and New York and walked away with the bragging rights of 7 total ribbons; 6 Blue Ribbons in Makers of Merit and 1 Red Ribbon Awarded specially for Educational Projects.
Obilab decided to create a drumkit that is more than simply an instrumental noise maker, but is within itself, an instrument of change. “We had to solve the very big ‘problems’ associated with traditional drums.. being loud, expensive, hard to carry, occupying lots of space, taking a very long time to assemble, and of course not being affordable” Caroline wisely points out. This meant breaking the mold of the drums that have been utilized and reproduced for the last few hundred years.
With Obilab, people who might otherwise never have the opportunity to play drums, now have access, a message that especially resonates with Caroline: “I wanted to play drums when I was a little girl and my parents sent me to piano, which I hated! The thing that spoke to me was that little girl like, ‘oh my God I would have loved to play the drums.’” Now Caroline not only gets to play drums, but gets to make sure no other child ever suffers the same fate.
In October 2015 Obilab opened its online store to begin answering its global demand, but of course they never forgot their original values. The cardboard and fiberglass design ensures that these drums can be manufactured locally, internationally, and economically as these materials are readily available everywhere. A product being able to be produced in small, proximal locations is just another part of good design, Patrick points out.
After only two years as a team, Obilab is thrilled to be using their design skills to challenge the norms of who is a musician and what a musical instrument looks like.
“It’s something we noticed when we started to look into the musical instruments market, we realized there were on one side very traditional instruments and on the other side very techie, computer based instruments, but nothing really in the middle that could address amateurs, pros, and newbies. Why are there so few instruments offering this balance between design, quality, and experience?” It seems Obilab has taken the liberty of answering it’s own question with its portable drum kit creation.
And don’t forget, this is simply the first gaze into Obilab’s secret notebook.